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Joe Henricksen: September 2011 Archives

Hoops Report Mailbag IV

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By Joe Henricksen

Are we ready for another mailbag? The questions keep coming and the Hoops Report mailbag needs to be emptied (though several questions still were not able to get in this edition of the Hoops Report Mailbag). Here goes with Hoops Report Mailbag IV ...

QUESTION: Who do you think is the best 2-guard in Illinois right now out of Malcolm Hill, Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Stephens, Jerron Wilbut and Aaron Simpson? I know people say Nunn and Stephens are the best, but I would go with Wilbut because he has the best all-around scoring game as well as athleticism. If you were Illinois which player would fit best? Thanks.
-- Rich from Glen Ellyn

HOOPS REPORT: For starters, what really sets Nunn, Hill and Stephens apart from both Wilbut and Simpson as prospects is they are still just juniors with enormous upside. You are right about Wilbut in that he has that mixture of athleticism and an all-around game with some size in the backcourt. I look for him to have a big senior year for coach Jay Baum at Downers Grove South, but as a prospect he's a notch below the three juniors.

As far as who is the best? That's a tough one. Really tough. The Hoops Report has all three right behind the great Jabari Parker of Simeon in the Class of 2013. All three are no-brainer high-major talents. The best player among them all right now is Kendrick Nunn of Simeon. But the Hoops Report still feels, as prospects, Kendall Stephens of St. Charles East and Malcolm Hill of Belleville East, who are both in that 6-4 to 6-5 range, have just started their ascent as players and haven't come close to reaching their ceiling. These two have that long, rangy body type that excels at the next level and tools to go with it. But on the other hand, you absolutely know what you're going to get with Nunn in college.

Your question about which one would be the best fit for Illinois? I believe both Nunn and/or Stephens would have been ideal fits due to the fact Illinois absolutely needs a shooter on that roster -- and both Nunn and Stephens can really shoot it. With that being said, Hill is still a fantastic recruit for Illinois and is certainly a potential difference-maker at the college level.


QUESTION: Best team outside the city?????
-- Mark from Bradley

HOOPS REPORT: The best team outside the city is Proviso East. Coach Donnie Boyce's Pirates are loaded, despite not having much size. But a team everyone will need to pay close attention to outside the Chicago area is Rockford Auburn. Wichita State recruit Fred Van Vleet is a proven winner, both on the AAU circuit and leading last year's Auburn team to a supersectional berth. There is plenty of talent returning for coach Bryan Ott. And now Van Vleet's AAU teammate, Ball State recruit Marcus Posley, has joined him after transferring in from Winnebago. Auburn is a serious contender to reach Peoria in March.


QUESTION: What are the chances we soon see high school basketball in Illinois use a shot clock?
-- Brian from Tinley Park

HOOPS REPORT: Over the years, the shot clock talk has certainly gained a little more dialogue among coaches, administrators, fans and the media. But I'm not so sure that dialogue has gotten to the point where the IHSA is going to put it on the to-do list.

Last winter, the City/Suburban Hoops Report publication, which goes out to subscribers, did a massive survey on various Illinois high school basketball topics, including the shot clock. Among the 126 coaches surveyed, 68 were against a shot clock and 58 said yes to a shot clock. So it's pretty split among coaches.

Aside from the actual impact on the game the shot clock would have, the other big issue is cost. We're talking shot clocks for the gym (or multiple gyms in many schools) and another person to pay (shot clock operator) for every game played, both girls and boys, at all levels. Another negative, brought up by several coaches while conducting the survey last winter, were the problems the scorer's table would have with an incompetent (or not properly trained) shot clock operator -- starting and stopping the clock, when to reset, etc.


QUESTION: Forget about last season. Forget about what happened in July. Name one senior who will have the biggest breakout season this winter.
-- Lynx of Bellwood

HOOPS REPORT: Dang. A tough one. OK, I'm looking for someone who didn't break out this spring or summer. I'm looking for someone who didn't necessarily have a big junior year. So here goes ...

I'm going with Cameron Harvey, who transferred from St. Joe's to Wheaton Academy this year. Harvey came in with high expectations when he entered St. Joseph as a freshman, even committing to Wyoming at one point two years ago. After an up-and-down three years at St. Joe's, including a less-than-eventful junior year, Harvey will be playing for coach Paul Ferguson at Wheaton Academy this winter. When you combine a sense of urgency for Harvey, knowing this is his chance to shine as a senior, along with a clear opportunity for major minutes and a schedule that is going to be a little less than what he would face playing in the Chicago Catholic League at St. Joe's, Harvey could very well be that guy. I'm looking for the Eastern Illinois recruit to have a breakout season.


QUESTION: Give me a name, a young player in the sophomore class, who the average fan doesn't know or know much about who is a player and will blossom this upcoming season.
-- R Steele

HOOPS REPORT: James Pupillo, a 5-10 guard from Addison Trail, is that player. For a program that has really had its share of hard times over the past decade, Pupillo is a true bright spot. The kid can really play. He has a nice feel and can fill it up. He put together a solid freshman year. I really think Pupillo can be a 15-plus point per game scorer this season as a sophomore.

And another youngster who is really under the radar but will blossom is Max Rothschild, a 6-5 sophomore at University High in Chicago.


QUESTION: Quick question, Joe. I read your stuff all the time. It's great stuff. But my question: We know Simeon is the powerhouse in the city, but what about the suburban powerhouses? Who are your top five suburban picks for this upcoming year?
-- Basketball Fan

HOOPS REPORT: In no particular order, the top five suburban teams in the preseason will be Proviso East, Warren, Homewood-Flossmoor, Downers Grove South and New Trier.


QUESTION: I was wondering where David Cohn and Jared Brownridge rank among the Class of 2013 and if you see them as high-major players or just mid-majors. Cohn really impressed me over the spring and Brownridge was great over the summer. Thanks.
-- Steve from Addison

HOOPS REPORT: Well, Steve, I think they are both absolute ideal mid-major prospects. I have Brownridge among the top 25 prospects in the class and Cohn among the top 20 players in the class, which is a class that is deep with talent. Just the fact that these players are in that range shows the depth this class features. Brownridge, as you said, had a phenomenal summer, boosting his stock as much as anyone in the junior class. But he has some size and athletic limitations, though features one high-major quality: shooting the basketball. That could make him a specialist at a higher level for a program looking for a shooter. But he's a major recruiting coup at the mid-major level, especially in the right league and in the right system.


QUESTION: Some say the Class of 2013, this year's juniors make up the best class in state history. Do you agree? Do you see that as well?
--Zag Fan in the Heartland

HOOPS REPORT: Who is saying that? No, I don't agree at all. It's a very, very good class, especially coming a year after the Class of 2012 here in Illinois that is so down. And it boasts one of those rare talents in Jabari Parker, who obviously headlines the class and makes it noteworthy. But I don't think the Class of 2013 will touch the best classes this state has produced, most notably the Class of 1998 or Class of 1979. I'm not even sure it's going to be better than the Class of 2011 that just graduated or the Class of 2014 right behind it. The Class of 2013 already has three players -- Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Paul White -- who are all arguably among the top 20 players in the country nationally.


QUESTION: Having been at it for a while like you have been, Joe, do you develop your own relationships with college coaches and end up pulling for those teams? I would figure that it would just be natural when dealing with college coaches.
-- RG from Des Plaines

HOOPS REPORT: Good question. Yes, kind of, RG. But there are so many terrific coaches (and really good guys) in the business, both head coaches and assistants, you end up pulling for a whole lot of coaches and teams. And it gets difficult when good coaches, who are also good guys, are on the hot seat. Good coaches do get fired in the business. But when you look around at some of the stuff that goes on in college basketball and recruiting, you do appreciate the staffs and coaches that do it right. So it's hard not to root for the coaching staffs at programs like Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois (and several others) who absolutely do it the right way.


QUESTION: I have been a subscriber of the Hoops Report for probably 15 years. Live for that thing all winter. I know you write a lot about high school coaches and programs, so I wanted to know who is your favorite high school coach?
-- Sully from Norridge

HOOPS REPORT: Pretty much impossible to come up with just one, Sully. There have been so many coaches I've gotten to know and become friends with, several who I have become very good friends with, over the years. I could give you two or three dozen names. But if you have to have an answer, just one name, I will go with Gene Pingatore at St. Joseph when you combine everything. I just have so much respect for coach Pingatore, who despite all the success and all the accolades has never changed his persona or how he treats people. He's stayed humble, never big-times anyone and has been in it for all the right reasons all the time. He is unbelievably easy to work with. His basketball knowledge and his history of high school basketball in Illinois make it so enjoyable -- and a treat -- to talk with him during the season, in the summer or down in Peoria in March. Yes, the success and longevity is impressive, but it's all that he represents as a coach, mentor and person that make him unique.


QUESTION: Give me your thoughts on national rankings. As a college basketball fan and a fan of a particular school, do we all take too much stock in the national rankings?
-- C-Rob from Plainfield

HOOPS REPORT: To answer your question, yes, to a degree fans put a little too much stock into national rankings. I mean those top 20 or 30 players in the country, in a typical year, are pretty much the no-brainers. There are a few that slip in there in one ranking or another, in that top 20 or 30, that may not belong. But when a program gets a top 30 or top 35 talent their fans should be ecstatic.

But where it gets tricky is really in that 40-100 range. That sounds like a big range, but it's really not. That's where the rankings can really fluctuate. Depending on whose rankings you are looking at, there really may not be a big difference between the No. 49 player and the No. 85 player.

Overall, once you get past those top 30 or so players, I really don't like national rankings. For one, I know how difficult it is to evaluate and have a handle on just one state. I can't even imagine doing the entire country. And I see how national rankings are done, and it's impossible to get a great grasp of players across the country when you see so little of them and go long stretches (often months) without watching them play.

Take this past year's recruiting class at Illinois. I think every single national evaluator has it wrong. Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius is, without question, the best prospect going forward that Illinois brought in. But in every national ranking he is behind Mycheal Henry, Tracy Abrams and Mike Shaw. I had him No. 3 behind Anthony Davis and Wayne Blackshear, but those national evaluators didn't see the real Egwu last July (he was playing injured) and they rarely get out to see players during the winter. How many national evaluators went out and watched St. Ignatius play last season?


QUESTION: I know you don't do national rankings but it's hard to imagine so few Illinois prospects in the top 100 of these national rankings. Is the national class that good or is the the senior class really that bad here in Illinois?
-- P.M. from Aurora

HOOPS REPORT: Well, I have seen several of the top players in the class this past summer, including top talents like Shabazz Muhammad, Mitch McGary and Gary Harris among others. And no, I'm no national expert, but from what I have seen, I don't think this Class of 2012 is that strong nationally. So that really makes you realize how weak the Class of 2012 is in Illinois. Steve Taylor of Simeon is the only top 100 player in the state. And even Taylor is excluded from a top 100 list here and there.


QUESTION: Catholic League going to be loaded. De La Salle is the best, St. Joe's will be good and so will Rita. But how about Loyola Academy as a sleeper? What do you think? I know they have some young talent.
--North Side Joe

HOOPS REPORT: Yes, coach Tom Livatino does have some nice young players. The best of the bunch is a sophomore -- Jack Morrissey, a super perimeter shooter who made his mark last year late in the season. But the program took a big hit just recently when 6-3 junior David McCoy transferred to Niles West. That's a significant blow to the program and may prevent them from sneaking up on any big boys this winter.


QUESTION: As a high school blogger/talent evaluator, what's your goal?
-- Curious George from Villa Park

HOOPS REPORT: Not sure exactly where you're going or what you're looking for, but let me try to find some obscure goal and have some fun since you're leaving it pretty open-ended for me.

How about this? Hoops Report goal: to come up with and bestow a nickname to a star prep player, the name sticks and becomes -- for all intents and purposes -- his name for the rest of his life. Even when he's inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, that's the name he goes by.

Nicknames are tough. A lot of great ones, but the best ones out there fit the person and basically replace the first name, where you don't even think twice about it being a "nickname." And basketball players have the best nicknames of any profession, better than rappers, better than professional wrestlers.

There are some awful ones, I know. How about Steve "Hair Canada" Nash? Yikes. "Captain" Kirk Hinrich was lame. Names like "Wilt the Stilt," Sam "I Am" Cassell and Charles Barkley's, "The Round Mound of Rebound," just don't roll off the tongue.

"Jesus Shuttlesworth" isn't even really a nickname; it's Ray Allen's movie name. Dwyane "Flash" Wade isn't even that cool. Allen "The Answer" Iverson really isn't, either. And I've always thought Karl "The Mailman" Malone was clever but a little overrated.

"The Glove" was used for Gary Payton -- and now used by every basketball coach in America when talking about their best defensive player -- but it was more about his basketball strength, not a great nickname. The exact same can be said for "The Microwave." And now any player that heats up quickly, just as Vinnie Johnson did, is annointed with "The Microwave." But Vinnie's family and loved ones aren't calling out, "Hey, Microwave, lets get some dinner."

But there are some good ones.

Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson is rock solid. Corliss Williamson's "Big Nasty" was catchy and used a lot. Chris Andersen of the Denver Nuggets, or better known as the "Bird Man", has a good, hip present-day nickname. Bryant "Big Country" Reeves was soooo ideal. And Earl "The Pearl" Monroe is pretty smooth, fitting in both old school hoops or present day.

Underrated? "Popeye" Jones. Why? First, because he wasn't very good and we all still remember him. And because I bet 99 percent of you couldn't name "Popeye" Jones' real name. ... It's Ronald. The same with "Truck" Robinson, who played for several teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Anyone age 35 or older know his real name? Didn't think so. It's Leonard.

Most people know it's Anfernee Hardaway but everyone called him "Penny." And those Lil' Penny commercials were some of the best ever! Remember Dwayne Washington? Probably not, but you would probably remember "Pearl" Washington, the pudgy All-American Syracuse point guard in the 1980s. Absolutely loooooved Pearl and those Orangemen teams. And how about Mookie Blaylock -- or Daron Blaylock? His name was so cool that a band, which eventually called itself Pearl Jam, called themselves "Mookie Blaylock" for a short time.

It's even better when the nickname really has meaning. The "Iceman" was given to George Gervin when a teammate said he's the "Iceman" because he can score 40 without breaking a sweat. Cool as ice. He has been forever known as the "Iceman." Plus, he had one of the coolest posters hanging in my room as a kid. Remember the one? Gervin sitting on a bunch of blocks of ice, legs crossed, chilling with that cool smile and a silver sweatsuit with "Ice" stitched across the chest. The "Iceman" would have made my top five all-time basketball nicknames (see below) if not for the fact Val Kilmer killed the nickname "Iceman" forever with his role in "Top Gun."

And the No. 1 most underrated basketball nickname? "World" B. Free. No one ever just said Lloyd Free; it was always "World" B. Free. His name was so good you would forget if the B. was part of the nickname or part of his real name. Sometimes people just said "World" B. and it felt right.

I actually heard one of my favorite nicknames this summer on the AAU circuit. Sharpshooting white kid on a mostly all-black, out-of-state AAU team. Kid is lighting it up. And every time he releases a shot, players and his coach are calling out his name, "Daytime!" as the ball comes out of his hand. "Daytime." I would have done anything to be called "Daytime" back in the 1980s. That's right up there with "White Chocolate" for Jason Williams and "Chocolate Thunder" for Darryl Dawkins.

The top five?

Well, "Pistol Pete" and "Tiny" Archibald are about as good as it gets. "Tiny" replaced his first name, Nate, while even today Pete Maravich is always attached to "Pistol." It's as if Pete is his middle name -- "Pistol" Pete Maravich. And there is that cool name factor with both "Tiny" and "Pistol". And you have to include "Spud" Webb on the list. You forget he even had a first name (Anthony). And "Dr. J" is an absolute classic that checks in at No. 2 overall.

The best nickname in basketball history? "Magic." No question, it's Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Simple, catchy and it fit perfectly. Magic, which was given to him by a sportswriter when he was 15 years old, is just flat-out the coolest nickname ever.

So that's my goal. I want to find a nickname for that star player and a name that's going to stick forever. Jabari Parker ... Hmmmmmm. I'm thinking.


To read past Hoops Report Mailbags, go to ...

Hoops Report Mailbag III

Hoops Report Mailbag II

Hoops Report Mailbag I

St. Rita's Tony Hicks to Penn

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By Joe Henricksen

There weren't many players in the Class of 2012 who improved their stock more this summer than St. Rita's Tony Hicks. Offers came from several mid-major and mid-major plus programs, including Loyola, Dayton and South Florida to name a few, but the combination of basketball and academics was what sealed the deal for Hicks committing to Penn of the Ivy League on Monday.

"Academics, first and foremost, was what set Penn apart from other schools," says Hicks. "Plus, there is a real opportunity for me to contribute as a freshman. There is a great group of guys in the program there. It felt like a family."

While bigger basketball programs were heavily involved, both Hicks and St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare pointed out the recruiting job coach Jerome Allen and his staff did to help secure the Hicks commitment.

"The love they showed him went a long way," DeCesare pointed out. "They really did a great job of recruiting him. They followed him every game in July. And now the opportunities for him are endless with an Ivy League education."

Hicks, who averaged 13 points a game as a sophomore and 16 points a game last season as a junior, wanted to be at a place where he felt wanted.

"They definitely showed that they wanted me," says Hicks. "That was important to me -- to go to a place where I was wanted. They showed that in the beginning and throughout the recruiting process."

Hicks, a 6-1 scoring 2-guard, is a recruiting steal for a Penn program that has struggled a bit the past few years. But Hicks will provide a versatile scoring threat for Allen, who starred at Penn as a player and took over the program as head coach last season. With a lethal first step to get by defenders and an ability to knock shots down, Hicks has the capability of putting points on the board. He's currently among the top 15 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings.

St. Rita, with seniors Hicks and A.J. Avery leading the way, figure to be among the top teams in the Chicago area this season.

Mac Irvin Jam provides sneak peek

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By Joe Henricksen

When it comes to taking stock into what transpires on the court in the months of September and October, it pales in comparison to what occurs throughout the winter months on the high school basketball scene -- or even the month of June with high school shootouts or in July on the club circuit.

Nevertheless, the Mac Irvin Back to School Jam at Riverside-Brookfield brought out some of the state's top talent and some intriguing matchups this past weekend. And on the opening day of action, all eyes and hopes were turned to a potential second-round matchup between the state's top two prospects in the Class of 2014 -- Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander. And as hoped, that matchup materialized.

While both are terrific, high-major college prospects, at the end of the day it was clear: Okafor, at this point, is by far and away the top prospect in the Class of 2014. And Okafor didn't even have his best day.

But Okafor is just so much further along and more polished than Alexander. The 6-10 Okafor is bigger and stronger. Plus, he's more advanced and comfortable as an overall player, especially on the offensive end. Alexander, who didn't have a field goal in the game and finished 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, is certainly an impressive talent with upside. However, as many sing the praises of these young players, there is always so much room for growth and improvement as a player and a need to remind yourself they are just sophomores.

Big Ham sighting!
If there is one player many have been anxious to watch, it's 6-9 junior Tommy Hamilton of Whitney Young. The talented big man has missed large chunks of time on the court for various reasons over the past several months. But on Saturday, Hamilton was more active and energetic than the Hoops Report has seen him in quite some time. He had his moments where he played well and again showed his unique skill level for a player his size. This is a big season for Hamilton to solidify himself as not just a much-talked-about prospect, but a true difference-maker.

Unsung talent on star-studded team
Proviso East will be a consensus top five team in the preseason rankings when the season tips off in November. With the return of several Division I prospects from last year's 22-win team, including big names like Keith Carter and 6-4 junior Sterling Brown, coach Donnie Boyce should enjoy his first year on the job immensely.

But don't underestimate the impact Curie transfer Paris Burns could have this season for Boyce's Pirates. The 5-10 Burns is a player capable of energizing a team and impacting games on both ends of the floor with his elite athleticism and quickness. He also has showed an improved jumper and range that he's added to his offensive game.

Watch out for Morgan Park -- in 2013
Wayne Blackshear is off to Louisville and Jerome Brown is at UIC, so there was to be an expected drop at Morgan Park this coming season. The Mustangs, led by DePaul commit Billy Garrett, will be competitive, dangerous and a ranked team this year. But the following season could be coach Nick Irvin's best team since he's taken over the Morgan Park program.

Led by Garrett, a 6-4 point guard who is just a junior, the Mustangs have an abundance of young talent in the program. The Hoops Report continues to be impressed with the improvement of 6-8 junior Xzavier Taylor, who is now among the top 15 prospects in the stellar Class of 2013.

And the potential in the sophomore class is endless, led by Hoops Report sleeper and favorite Josh Cunningham, a highly-athletic 6-5 forward. And 6-6 Kierre Perkins, along with guards Lamont Walker, Eddie Miles and Torry Johnson, round out a handful of impressive sophomores.

But the player who caught the Hoops Report's eye in limited time was freshman Kain Harris, who is clearly among the top prospects in the Class of 2015. This isn't the first time Harris has opened eyes, yet he is rarely mentioned with some of the other top freshmen in Illinois. He needs to be. Harris is big and strong for his age and athletic, while also showing an ability to both put it on the floor and knock down shots with range. Harris is an impressive prospect.

You can't help but look forward to some potential barnburners on the South Side in 2012-2013 between Simeon and Morgan Park.

R-B still solid
Riverside-Brookfield has graduate a couple of terrific guards the past two years in Sean McGonagill (Brown) and Ryan Jackson (Lewis). Those two led R-B to a combined 69 wins the past three years. While the Bulldogs won't have the big-named guard, coach Tom McCloskey's club will still be very competitive this winter.

The senior duo of Luke Nortier and Andrew Hanley, along with junior Damonta Henry, form a solid perimeter trio. Nortier is a versatile 6-3 do-it-all type who is an ideal small college prospect. Louis Marino, a 6-4 senior, shot the ball extremely well at the Back to School Jam on Saturday and will play a key role. Throw in 6-6 junior Miki Ljuboja, who is out with an injury, and the Bulldogs have a little size to complement a team with some good perimeter shooting.

R-B, which went 12-0 in the Metro Suburban last season and won a second straight regional championship, will once again be in the thick of a conference race that figures to include Ridgewood.

And a few more thoughts from the weekend ...
• When the basketball season tips off in the south suburbs this November, the talk will center around a veteran and talented Homewood-Flossmoor team and Tom Cappel's return to coaching -- this time at Crete-Monee. But Hillcrest, despite the loss of leader Juice Brown (now at Toledo) and the tragedy this past summer when an innocent Ryan Royall was killed in a senseless murder, will still be lurking.

The team made up of Hillcrest players reached the title game of the Mac Irvin Back to School Jam, where it fell to a highly-regarded Proviso East team. The senior tandem of 6-4 Jalen Loving and 6-5 Jayone Troutman are a pair of blue-collar workhorses.

• Look for Von Steuben's Deqwon Horn, a strong, 5-9 bulldozing point guard, to put together a solid season and keep coach Vince Carter's Panthers in the hunt in a what should be a wide open Red-North.

Whitney Young's Scott Kingsley, a 6-2 junior, can really shoot the basketball. The Dolphins are stacked with Division I talent, but Kingsley could play a key role off the bench in helping space the floor for coach Tyrone Slaughter's big men.

• Keep an eye on University High over the next couple of years. Max Rothschild, a 6-5 sophomore, is a player. And the addition of Lincoln-Way East transfer Kyle Parker, a 5-10 junior guard, is another talent that could make the Maroons one to watch in Class 2A over the next couple of seasons.

• The Morton program remains the same -- a bunch of gutty kids that play loose and well together. It's a program you can't take lightly anymore. And while senior Rocco Belcaster and junior Waller Perez receive most of the attention, senior athlete David Chatman is a player. He may not have an ideal position, but the 6-3 Chatman is a super athlete who plays to his strengths very well.

• It will take some time, but St. Joseph will be a team that will be far better late in the season than they will be in November and December. And they will certainly be better than last year's uncharacteristic 10-17 season.

Eastern Illinois lands Cameron Harvey

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By Joe Henricksen

Eastern Illinois will be adding another Chicago area product to a program that has recruited the city, suburbs and the state of Illinois hard the past few years. Cameron Harvey, who transferred from St. Joseph to Wheaton Academy this school year, committed to coach Mike Miller and the Panthers on Saturday.

Harvey, who visited the Charleston campus this weekend, is a strong, big-bodied 2-guard who should thrive in the Ohio Valley Conference. He showed improved and polished perimeter skills, including a more consistent jumper, while playing with NLP on the travel team circuit this past summer when healthy.

In November of 2009, Harvey gave a verbal commitment to Wyoming when he was considered among the top 20 prospects in the Class of 2012 in Illinois. He opened up his recruitment last summer when he de-committed. Harvey is currently among the top 35 prospects in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings and poised for a breakout season this winter for Wheaton Academy.

The Eastern Illinois basketball program already includes Chicago area products in Jeremy Granger of Elgin, Morris Woods of Argo, Alfonzo McKinnie of Chicago (Marshall) and Malcolm Herron of Downers Grove South. Miller and his staff, including assistants Barron Thelmon and Chad Altadonna, continue to target Illinois and make the state a recruiting priority.

Brad Foster one of two Lewis commits

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By Joe Henricksen

Lewis University landed a couple of key pieces to its future on Thursday with a pair of commitments, including a local product in Lincoln-Way Central's Brad Foster. The 6-8 senior, who was a no-namer just a year ago and jumped on the scene with a solid junior year, is among the top 35 prospects in the Class of 2012 in Illinois.

In addition, head coach Scott Trost secured a commitment from 6-7 Paul Baumgart of Canton, Mich., which is just outside Ann Arbor. Baumgart is a skilled 4-man who averaged 14 points a game as a junior and was receiving interest from several low-Division I programs.

Like all coaches and college programs, Trost's Flyers have been in search of quality big men. And both Foster and Baumgart fill a critical need for Lewis as current Flyer big men Marty Strus (Stagg), Matt Toth (Sandburg), Lonnie Lawrence (Bloomington) and Justin Jarosz (Lockport) are all seniors.

At 6-8 and with some athleticism, Foster offers a world of potential at the Division II level. While he's not a knockdown shooter, Foster is more than capable of facing up and knocking down a shot. As his strength improves and he becomes more comfortable around the basket and taking contact, Foster has the size, length and bounce to be a factor around the basket on both ends of the floor.

Lewis remains in the hunt for another big man to join Foster and Baumgart in this 2012 recruiting class.

Trost is fresh off landing a stellar recruiting class in 2011, highlighted by Riverside-Brookfield guard Ryan Jackson and Homewood-Flossmoor's versatile Julian Lewis. The current freshmen class also includes a trio of unheralded players in Morton's Jeff Jarosz, Naperville Central's David Niggins and Farragut's Gabe Williams.

Aaron Simpson commits to ISU

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By Joe Henricksen

Aaron Simpson, North Chicago's high-scoring guard, committed to coach Tim Jankovich and Illinois State on Wednesday. The 5-11 senior is the No. 6 ranked player in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings.

Last season, Simpson led North Chicago to the Class 3A semifinals after the Warhawks finished 12-13 in the regular season. North Chicago fell to Centralia in the state semifinals and then lost to Brooks in the third-place game to finish the year 17-15. Simpson, an AP second-team Class 3A all-state selection last season, averaged 22.5 points and 3.9 assists a game.

Simpson's game has always been about putting the ball in the hole with impressive offensive abilities. He slashes to the basket, makes shots from the perimeter and converts runners and floaters. A year ago he knocked down 66 three-pointers.

Simpson will join a Redbird recruiting class that will feature Normal Community guard Anthony Beane, who is the son of Illinois State assistant coach Anthony Beane, Sr.

Spot-Lite showcases Marshall's Doyle

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By Joe Henricksen

Marshall coach Henry Cotton believes he's one of the most underrated players in the city and will be "the best unsigned player in the class" when he talks of 6-4 senior Milton Doyle.

He just might be right.

A year ago Doyle made quite an impression at last fall's Illinois Spot-Lite Showcase, grabbing the attention of the Hoops Report after transferring to Marshall from Tilden. He did so again Sunday at the 2011 edition of the Illinois Spot-Lite Showcase. The long, wiry and active Doyle was one of the most impressive performers at the event and is currently among the Hoops Report's top 20 prospects in the senior class.

However, what he's done between last year's Spot-Lite event and this year's has been minimal. He sat out last season after transferring to Marshall and then breaking his wrist last season. While he played a little club basketball with the Illinois Hawks, he missed most of the summer AAU circuit while he attended summer school. He did open some eyes in June with his performance at the Reebok Headliner tryout camp in Chicago and then attended the Reebok Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia in July.

But even with the Reebok event success, the recruiting interest and fanfare has been quiet. That should change as he will be seen as he's finally healthy, playing and poised to do what Cotton predicts.

"He's an exciting talent," says Cotton. "He's a natural player who does things and makes plays you can't teach. And he is such a respectful kid."

What Doyle does best is get to the basket and finish at the rim. He's a superior athlete with bounce and length, capable of beating defenders off the dribble and using his athleticism to convert plays. He gets out and runs the floor and is the ultimate finisher on the break. Simply put, Doyle finds ways to put the ball in the basket while creating a little havoc defensively with his length and quickness. Doyle's mechanics on his jumper are a work in progress, but he even showed an ability to make some perimeter shots at the Spot-Lite event.

Other players who opened eyes at the Spot-Lite Showcase
• Steve Taylor, 6-7, Simeon (Sr.)
Yes, the Class of 2012 is weak. But it's so clear that Taylor is by far and away the top prospect in the senior class in Illinois.

• Kendall Pollard, 6-5, Simeon (Jr.)
This is the forgotten man on a loaded Simeon team. He's always playing hard, willing to defend, do some dirty work and his offensive game continues to grow. Pollard is a solid mid-major prospect.

• Dante Bailey, 6-6, Glenbard East (Sr.)
A key member of last year's third-place finisher in Class 4A, Bailey had an eye-opening performance Sunday shooting the basketball. He was 6-for-6 from the three-point line in one game, poured in close to 30 points and was active and hustling. Bailey is an underrated prospect in the Class of 2012.

• Marvin Clark, 6-4, Glenbard East (Jr.)
A big-bodied wing with athleticism, Clark has improved both his handle and shot. As a result, the junior showed more aggressiveness offensively and was productive and played well throughout the event.

• Casey Boyle, 6-9, Grayslake Central (Sr.)
A project big man who is still in the developing stages, but he has really improved over the past 12 months. Boyle has emerged as a top small college prospect with size and an ability to face-up.

• Ben Ryan, 6-4, Washington (Sr.)
He's not blessed with quickness or athleticism, but Ryan has basketball smarts, some size on the wing and is a lefty who can make shots. Ryan's a very good small college prospect.

• Devante Jones, 5-8, Orr (Sr.)
He can be a little wild and he may not have a true position, but pound for pound there aren't many players with more quickness and athleticism than Jones. He can get where he wants and shoot it a little.

• D.J. Williams, 6-5, Simeon (Fr.)
It's very early and he's very young, but at this point Williams is arguably the top prospect in Illinois in the Class of 2015.

• Luwane Pipkins, 5-10, Bogan (Fr.)
There are other guards and players in the class who have received more pub early on, but Pipkins is about as good as any of them and will be an impact guard sooner than later in the Public League.

• Alex Majewski, 6-6, Brother Rice (Jr.)
A player with a nice combination of some size, decent athleticism and skill level. Majewski quietly put together a heck of a sophomore year for the Crusaders and will have a breakout season this winter.

• Luke Norman, 6-0, Freeport (Sr.)
The competitive Norman is always is in the middle of making things happen and will knock down some shots as well.

• Michael Hoekstra, 6-6, Bishop McNamara (Jr.)
He may be a bit of a no-namer in the loaded junior class, but he had a solid summer with the Peoria Irish and played well at the Spot-Lite Showcase. He's a competitive and active 4-man with some ability and size. Will step out and knock down the 15-footer and battle.


A thank you to Larry Butler of Illinois Spot-Lite, whose showcase event was well run and featured plenty of talent.

Young's Jermaine Morgan to Colorado State

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By Joe Henricksen

Colorado State has recruited the state of Illinois hard the past year in trying to land talent. The hard work and commitment to getting things done in Illinois paid off Thursday as Whitney Young's Jermaine Morgan committed to the Rams.

"Colorado State was the best fit for me," said Morgan, who visited Colorado State last weekend. "It's an up-and-coming program. They are in a great conference in the Mountain West. The players were cool and I had a chance to really get to know the head coach."

The recent addition of assistant coach Ronald Coleman to coach Tim Miles' Colorado State coaching staff was instrumental as well. Coleman, who was an assistant at Whitney Young and has been a part of the Mac Irvin Fire program for years, played a key role in the recruitment of Morgan.

"There is no doubt he played a part in my decision," Morgan said of the coach he's known since 7th grade. "I've known him for a long time. I want to go to a place where I can trust people, and I trust him. He's never let me down yet."

Morgan, who put together a solid summer playing with both his Whitney Young team and the Mac Irvin Fire program, watched his recruitment pick up since July. Minnesota and Iowa were two programs who began to show more and more interest, along with LaSalle, Detroit and several other mid-major programs.

The 6-7 Morgan, who is currently the No. 15 ranked senior in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, is an agile 4-man who runs the floor and has become more assertive and productive. He will be a part of coach Tyrone Slaughter's front line this season that will include 6-10 sophomore Jahlil Okafor and 6-9 junior Tommy Hamilton.

One memorable and rare open gym at Simeon

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By Joe Henricksen

Imagine what it would have been like if Steve Taylor and Kendrick Nunn were still uncommitted?

Despite the fact two of Simeon's highest profile players -- Taylor and Nunn -- are already committed to Marquette and Texas A&M, respectively, Tuesday night's open gym at Simeon was arguably the busiest open gym in Chicago basketball history and a scene that more resembled the Peach Jam in July or a Final Four in April.

You knew it was a little different when coaches were milling around, enjoying soft drinks and sandwiches and talking hoops in anticipation -- 45 minutes before the players were to take the floor.

"Damn, all this is making me nervous," one college coach joked.

With well over 30 coaches in attendance, including some programs coming in tandems and trios, along with a handful of talent evaluators mixed in and fans in the stands, this open gym turned into an event.

And college programs put all their efforts into this one, with some bringing two and three coaches. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching crew, assistants Jeff Capel and Steve Wojciechowski, rolled into Simeon in a limousine.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber and his assistant Jerrance Howard made yet another trip to Chicago's South Side. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy and assistant Billy Cyprien were comforted in knowing they already had Nunn locked up.

Ohio State's Thad Matta and assistant coach Jeff Boals teamed up. Kansas coach Bill Self was joined by assistant Kurtis Townsend.

North Carolina's Roy Williams, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, DePaul's Oliver Purnell and Utah's Larry Krystkowiak were all there.

Throw in another 20 or so Division I coaches, ranging from head coaches in Tim Miles of Colorado State, Tracy Dildy of Chicago State and Howard Moore of UIC to assistants from Tennessee, Xavier, Northern Illinois, Illinois State, Ohio, Valpo, Colorado State and a few others, and this was no ordinary September night for the Simeon basketball players and program. We're talking six head coaches in Krzyzewski, Self, Weber, Matta, Williams and Izzo who have all coached in a NCAA National Championship game in the past decade. This was not a typical open gym.

The heavy hitters were obviously in attendance to be seen -- by Simeon coach Rob Smith and the No. 1 junior in the country, Jabari Parker. And as Parker played with his teammates for nearly an hour and a half, you had to wonder if any of this was starting to wear on the extremely talented, yet still humble, kid.

The night on South Vincennes did not disappoint. While the talent on display was worth the trip, how hard the players got after it and competed against one another made it even better. There were no coaches coaching, no uniforms, no refs, no band, no cheerleaders, no scoreboard operator, no won-loss record at stake ... just a bunch of talented basketball buddies hoopin. And a bunch of college coaches taking it all in.

Illinois lands Belleville East star Malcolm Hill

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By Joe Henricksen

Illinois and coach Bruce Weber's recruiting fortunes continue as fast-rising Malcolm Hill of Belleville East committed to the Fighting Illini on Monday. Hill, a long, athletic wing, has blossomed over the past 12 months and is among the top 60 players nationally in his class.

Hill, who made an unofficial visit to Champaign this past weekend, joins Hope Academy's Jalen James as the second verbal commitment for Illinois in the junior class. This follows the commitment Illinois received from senior guard Michael Orris of Crete-Monee on Sunday.

Rivals.com has Hill ranked as the No. 50 player in the Class of 2013. He checks in at No. 58 on ESPN's top 60 rankings and No. 69 in Scout.com's national rankings. Hill is currently the No. 4 ranked player in the City/Suburban Hoops Report's Class of 2013 player rankings in Illinois.

The 6-5, 200-pound Hill had a breakout sophomore season, leading Belleville East with 16.7 points a game. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists per game while shooting 74 percent from the free-throw line. He led the Lancers to a 22-7 record last season.

Hill's progression continued throughout the spring and summer while playing with the Southwest Illinois Jets on the AAU circuit. And as a result, his recruiting picked up steam and his reputation grew nationally.

A versatile wing who is quick off his feet and blessed with length and an impressive wingspan, Hill is at his best as a slasher in the open court and along the baseline in the halfcourt. While his perimeter jumper is currently not a strength, Hill just finds ways to score and is comfortable scoring over smaller defenders, getting to the basket and getting to the free-throw line. Plus, he has a chance to be a disruptive, versatile defensive presence on the perimeter with his size and long arms.

But what jumps out and excites anyone watching Hill is his enormous upside and what he could be two or three years down the road as he matures and adds weight and strength. He is nowhere near a finished product and continues to progress and get better as a player.

With James and Hill in the fold, Illinois will continue to heavily pursue Jabari Parker of Simeon in the Class of 2013 in hopes that he will round out a stellar recruiting class for Illinois in 2013.

Orris commits to Illinois

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By Joe Henricksen

After a bit of a whirlwind, with a commitment last spring to Creighton and a de-commitment this past summer, Crete-Monee's Michael Orris has ended his recruitment by verballing to Illinois on Sunday. The 6-2 point guard snaps up the lone scholarship coach Bruce Weber has to offer in the Class of 2012.

Orris had recently been offered by Nebraska and visited Lincoln last week. He also had made a trip to Boston College. But a trip to Champaign this past weekend sealed the deal.

"I just knew it when I was there," said Orris on his way back from Champaign on Sunday. "This time around I saw things differently than the first time I went through this. The campus is an hour and a half away. It's in the Big Ten. And playing for my state school with the fan base they have is very appealing to me."

What won Orris over, however, was the immediate connection he had with the players in the program. This was his third trip to the campus and had built relationships with the team and coaching staff.

"The family atmosphere there is unbelievable," Orris pointed out. "Just being around those guys and connecting with the players and the coaches was something very different from the other places I had visited. Overall, when you combine what Illinois has to offer academically, socially and basketball wise, it's the best situation for me."

The No. 7 ranked prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings is a pure, run-your-team point guard. While Orris may not have the ideal athleticism or bring true scoring ability to the backcourt, he does offer a variety of intangibles that are sometimes difficult to find.

He has good size and strength, sees the floor very well and excites any coach he plays for with the intangibles he brings to the floor, including leadership qualities you can't teach. Orris is a selfless player who is all about winning and putting team goals first. If basketball I.Q. were a measurable statistic, Orris would have been one of the state's leaders this past season.

Orris led Crete-Monee to its best season in school history this past season. The Warriors won a school record 25 wins and won their first sectional championship in school history.

Illinois Spot-Lite Showcase this weekend
Illinois Spot Lite's annual Fall Showcase for Illinois high school basketball prospects will be this Sunday at Ackerman Sports & Fitness in Glen Ellyn. Games will begin at 11 a.m. and run throughout the day. There are still openings for players. For more information, contact Larry Butler at (708)-574-2457.

Hoops Report Mailbag III

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By Joe Henricksen

The City/Suburban Hoops Report Mailbag is back: Part III. Over the last several weeks the Hoops Report has been going through dozens of questions and comments from readers, some of which were well written and highly thought out. So thank you for that! This edition of Hoops Report Mailbag III, unfortunately, will not be able to hit them all. However, another Mailbag will follow shortly so that every question is answered.

There was certainly a heavy dose of Simeon-related questions, so we could call it Hoops Report Mailbag III -- the Simeon edition. We'll hammer out the Simeon questions throughout this mailbag, with plenty of others mixed in. Here we go ...


QUESTION: To be able to coach both Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker in a five or six-year period? Come on, Joe! Is there any man luckier than coach Robert Smith at Simeon?
-- Pilsen Pauly

HOOPS REPORT: Well, Phil Jackson coached MJ and Kobe. Is that good enough? And this dude named Gabriel Aubry (quick, who knows this guy, just off his name, before I reveal who it is ... ???? ... Anyone???) ... Anyway, he was able to father a child with Halle Berry, dated Kim Kardashian and now, reportedly, is being stalked by J-Lo, who is in her absolute prime! Now doesn't that sound like a way luckier guy than Rob Smith?


QUESTION: Is there any way, if healthy, anyone other than Simeon wins a Class 4A state championship?
-- City Boy

HOOPS REPORT: No.


QUESTION: Please tell me there is someone out there who will challenge Simeon in Class 4A. Is there?
-- T.J. from Little Village

HOOPS REPORT: No.


QUESTION: Any chance all the hype and expectations placed on Simeon for this upcoming season will get to them and they disappoint?
-- R. Wills from Tinley Park

HOOPS REPORT: OK, someone is looking for a little different answer from the Hoops Report regarding this Simeon onslaught that will hit us this winter. Disappoint? Highly doubt it. Fall short? Always a possibility. Since there is a run here on "Will Simeon lose?" questions, I'll play the game with you. Lebron, D-Wade and Bosh fell short (Thank you, Mavs!). And while Kanye and Jay-Z's "Watch The Throne" was rock solid, it fell short of expectations just a bit. So Simeon not winning a third straight state championship -- remember, we're dealing with teen-aged basketball players -- is always a possibility.

OK, we'll get back to the Simeon questions later. On to another topic or two ...


QUESTION: I was reading another question from another mailbag. The question was what five NFL players would you purchase a career highlight video of? I love your blog and your take on Illinois high school basketball. So my question is what five players from the past 20 years in prep hoops in Illinois would you purchase a highlight tape of? I'm keeping it the last 20 years because I'm too young to go much past that. Thanks and love reading your stuff!
-- Tyler from Moline

HOOPS REPORT: Great, great question. And fun. I'm assuming you're saying we have full access to all these players and their games via video. But that's going to take some time. (Hmmm ... Thinking ... Thinking ... Thinking ... ). I can not narrow it down to five. No way. But I have a short list (and the reasons why).

OK, have to start with Ronnie Fields. We're talking some legendary stuff that's going to be on that video from the Farragut star. Sick, sick stuff, like Michael Jackson moonwalking for the first time stuff. So that's a no-brainer and easy choice.

Kevin Garnett. That one-year freakshow with Farragut during the 1994-95 season was not appreciated enough at the time. We're talking once-in-a-lifetime stuff that has been overlooked, even if it was for just one season. That was before the whole jumping to the NBA straight out of high school thing became the norm, too. If Garnett was at Farragut in today's world? Can you imagine? Watching that long, gangly 6-11 talent swat shots, dunk on people's heads and run the floor like no big man we've ever seen at the high school level in Illinois before or since. That needs to be on film for eternity.

I suppose we should include Anthony Davis of Chicago Perspectives. Why? Because if, as projected, Davis is potentially the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, he will have been the least watched high school player that went No. 1 in the NBA Draft since Michael Olowokandi in 1998 (Yes, Olowokandi was a No. 1 pick!). The "Kandi Man" was barely watched in college at Pacific, let alone in high school. And having a little film on Davis would be nice. That's what happens when no one knows who you are until the spring of your junior year and you play at Chicago Perspectives. Here's hoping Davis' career is better than the "Kandi Man's" career.

Oh, I have to include Jon Scheyer just so I can get footage of his Proviso West Holiday Tournament game where he scored 21 points in 75 seconds. The Hoops Report was lucky enough to be in the gym that night but still can't get over it. Have to have that in the video vault, along with his systematic approach to frustrating, toying and dominating more athletic players at the high school level. He was a joy to watch.

I'll put another GBN player on this list: Chris Collins. Sure, he won Mr. Basketball in 1992. But there may have never been a player who put up more shots in state history. I want to see video of the ultimate green light at the high school level.

The name Paul McPherson will only register with some avid fans, some DePaul fans and Chicago Public League fans. He had a few fine moments at DePaul, even a cup of coffee in the NBA (he played in 55 games and saw 595 minutes of NBA action). And even a brief stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. But I didn't get enough of him in high school when he played at South Shore. McPherson is like the movies "Karate Kid" or "Cocktail". They may be cheesy, really not even that good as far as movies go, but I'll nonetheless stop and watch at least part of them when I come across Daniel-Son working with Miyagi or Brian Flannigan (Tom Cruise) listening to Coughlin's laws. (Plus, I couldn't get enough of Elisabeth Shue in the mid-1980s and she starred in both).

And McPherson was the same way. He wasn't the greatest basketball "player". He was Ronnie Fields athletic wise, only with less fanfare and pub. His emphatic dunks on people were of legendary status. And McPherson was an anomaly. He never had a position, was never tall enough (he was 6-3 or 6-4) and never had ideal skills, yet with his freakishly strong body and athleticism he still managed to play at the highest level and was even good enough to be included in an NBA trade. (How about this: McPherson was in the blockbuster trade that sent himself, Corie Blount and Ruben Garces to Golden State for Vinny Del Negro. Yes, I said blockbuster).

I know you said keep it within 20 years, but I'm going to dip a little past 25 years and include Nick Anderson, simply because he was "my guy" as a high school basketball-loving 8th grader (Yes, even tracked prep hoops then). I want to see his games on my TV, both when he played with Prosser and when he transferred to Simeon for his senior year for the 1985-86 season. Now that I have a little better clue and grasp of basketball as an adult, I want to see how good my favorite player at the time was when he was in high school. I had a little shrine to 'ol Nelison back in the day as a starry-eyed junior high kid.

The most recent? Ryan Boatright. He put on show after show for East Aurora last season. Is it possible to be Mr. Basketball and sign with UConn and be overlooked in the Chicago area? Yes. He was as exciting of a player as you'll see at the high school level with his speed, acceleration and explosiveness. Yet a lot of people didn't see a lot of him.


QUESTION: I'm not very good at phrasing questions but here goes. Give me a player out there in high school who may not get a coach, or maybe even you, excited the first time you see him play, but you keep coming back and you just have to finally admit you like him and that he can play.
-- Charles from Libertyville

HOOPS REPORT: Charles, you did fine with your first trip to the Mailbag. I think I get where you're going with this one. For comparisons sake, it's kind of like those songs you hate to admit to others you like but, nonetheless, crank them up in the car stereo anyway while you're driving, hoping no one really sees or hears you listening to it. Just got caught the other day. Stumbling along the XM Radio dial, stopped and turned up "Escape" by Enrique Iglesias. Dude pulls up next to me at the light, looks over, gives me a more-than-deserved smirk. A day later on a bike ride through the neighborhood, a house wife has the windows open on a summer day and is blasting Enrique's "Escape" while vacuuming. Uh-oh. (In my defense, Anna Kournikova is at her absolute peak in the video.)

But there are players just like that. And, Chuck, there is one right up there in your neighborhood that fits the description -- Robert Knar of Mundelein. At first glance, whether it was his freshman year playing for his dad at Mundelein, a year ago or even this past season, you see he doesn't fit the prototype college coaches are looking for. You say, "Man, you're not supposed to like him when projecting him to the next level." He's not real big. He's not very athletic. He's not the quickest. He just doesn't look the part. But you keep coming back -- just like you listen to that song (maybe with the windows rolled up this time) when it comes on -- because he makes you come back. I wasn't initially a believer. I admit it. Initial reaction was, "Yes, he's going to be a terrific high school basketball player and scorer. And he's going to be a must-have Division II/NAIA type who, in the right fit, could possibly sneak in and play low-Division I. But you know what? Knar does three things that all college coaches look for:

1. He shoots that ball. Really shoots it.
2. He knows how to play with some creative savviness to him, and
3. He has a high confidence level.

I was sold this spring and summer. He's a mid-major player. Now several college coaches are sold with a few very nice offers out there for him. Knar has proven, despite being the kid you're not supposed to like due to the sometimes ill-fated "look test," he's a quality mid-major prospect, especially in the right system. Kudos to the kid! And shame on people like me.


QUESTION: I am a basketball junkie like yourself. I go to games all winter, catch a little AAU action in the summer. But I find myself going nuts when, in the winter, I go to games to watch a player, instead of the game, and realize just how bad the game is as I'm only there to see the player. Is it just me, the basketball junkie?
-- Parsons Gredison

HOOPS REPORT: To Parsons and the very few out there like him (and me) who go and see a player, rather than a team or a specific game, here is the way I look at it. Remember the game show "Deal or No Deal"? When I accidentally stopped to watch this How-Did-This-Get-On-Network-Television show as I went up and down the channels, I didn't stop on the channel to see the host, Howie Mandel, the obnoxious, bald-headed knuckle-bumper. I didn't care about that stupid banker in the shadows or even the contestants. There was a draw that made it all tolerable -- the 26 beautiful models holding those briefcases. That's like 26 Vanna Whites in her prime x 2. You are right, Parsons, those nights where the teams are bad, the game is awful and all you're there for is to see that one player are some of the most difficult nights of basketball in the winter months. But like "Deal or No Deal", you're there for the one draw.


QUESTION: Hey, Joe, love your stuff. But I have a couple of questions for your mailbag. Do you read message boards? If so, what's your take on the personalities and content on these boards? Also, how much do you think they impact the players, coaches and families of players and coaches? There is plenty of conjecture on some boards about how much players read what is written. Your take?
--- R_A_S

HOOPS REPORT: In general, no, I do not read too much of what is on message boards. Honestly, just don't have the time to scour the message boards, but I do have links and posts that are copied and pasted to me by fans, coaches and friends who ask what I think of this or that. And, frankly, there is just so much mis-information on them from what I have read it's tough to spend time on them. While I think it's probably fun for fans to post on message boards and they serve a purpose in that regard (fun and entertaining for some people, I guess?), I'm not a fan.

Here is what is happening. As time goes on, with all the message boards, all the people posting on social media networks and message boards, and all the "recruiting people" on websites popping up by the week, all the information is beginning to have less and less meaning. They all just start running together and fans, players and parents have to start picking out what they view as legit. But with that, they all have less and less of an impact on players, coaches and families of players and coaches. I think they are now seeing all the mis-information and take it all with a grain of salt and are accepting it for what it is.

The problem in answering the second part of your question is that there are so many different scenarios that are played out. Message boards can certainly start up fires when it comes to recruiting, but they are becoming less of a raging inferno than when they first became popular.


QUESTION: My second question ... At the Simeon-Lyons state tournament game during Jabari Parker's freshman year, I made the comment to a friend of mine that I thought he had the potential to do more than D-Rose. My friend looked at me sideways, but I still stand by that statement. Not that he will, but that he can in the end have a better overall game and rep than Derrick. Obviously, they are different kinds of players. But again, what do you think?
--- R_A_S

HOOPS REPORT: You should definitely stand by your statement. It's certainly not outlandish to think so. And it's even more impressive that you said it when you did -- back during Jabari's freshman year. I believe Parker is, without a doubt, the best prospect the state of Illinois has seen since Kevin Garnett over 15 years ago. And for you to point that out at that stage -- during Parker's freshman year -- pat yourself on the back. I remember several people telling me at that time, including several in-the-know basketball people, how Parker wasn't this, wasn't that (mostly that he wasn't athletic or explosive enough). The kid had just turned 15 and was still physically developing and maturing!!!!!


QUESTION: I hear Hyde Park has seven transfers from other Chicago Public League schools. Are those boys going to be able to play or will they have to sit out a year?
--- Seever Royale from Chicago

HOOPS REPORT: Well, it depends on who you talk to. And the number isn't seven. Derrick Randolph, who was at Whitney Young, is not at Hyde Park as some thought he might be. He's at a prep school out in California. But as of right now, all indications are several of those transfers' eligibility will be up in the air and will likely come down to a case-by-case situation. I did talk to Hyde Park coach Lamont Bryant this week. He believes they will be eligible. The biggest names are Moshawn Thomas from Bogan and Marcus Smith from Mt. Carmel.


QUESTION: It goes without saying Simeon is the premier basketball program in the state of Illinois. Tell me why. Tell me why it's this school over others and why the Wolverines have ? And who is most responsible, the players or the coaches?
-- Big Pontiac Holiday Hoop Fan

HOOPS REPORT: Another great question. Of all the schools and basketball programs currently out there, no one can combine history and both team and individual success -- and I'm talking three decades worth -- with current team and individual success more than Simeon. Other than a brief lull in the early 2000s (and we're talking 17 and 18 wins seasons as a lull), Simeon has been an Illinois prep basketball monster. King? Came and went. Westinghouse? Came and went. Quincy? Lost its luster. Whitney Young? Too recent. Thornton and Proviso East are probably the closest we can get, but they still don't match Simeon's three-decades long run of playing at the highest level. Now as to why?

Look, think of Simeon as "Saturday Night Live." (Stay with me here). While it's true SNL is not what it once was -- or even close -- the fact is this show had a phenomenal decades-long run. The show produced its share of stars, but no one was more important to the rise of "Saturday Night Live" than Eddie Murphy. And no one is more responsible for the dominating success at Simeon -- past and present -- more than the late Bob Hambric, the legendary coach who was in charge of the program from 1980-2004. And, coincidentally, the Simeon/Hambric rise coincided at the same exact time as the Eddie Murphy/SNL rise -- from 1980-1984.

Hambric took over at Simeon in 1980 and promptly went 27-2 that first year and by 1984 won a state title with a 30-1 record. Murphy elevated (maybe even saved) SNL while a regular cast member from 1980-84, then rose to box office fame with blockbuster movies "48 Hours", the "Beverly Hills Cop" series and "Trading Places."

While the likes of John Belushi and Chevy Chase came before Eddie Murphy, the show took off during Murphy's presence in the early 1980s and set the stage for an endless list of breakout performers like Billy Crystal, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, Dennis Miller, Jon Lovitz, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Chris Rock, David Spade, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Adam Sandler.

And while Hambric set the tone and instilled his way on and off the floor at Simeon -- and current coach Rob Smith has maintained many of Hambric's strong influences and principles -- the program produced its own stars to keep the program in the spotlight. When you throw a half dozen names together like the late great Ben Wilson, Nelison "Nick" Anderson, Deon Thomas, Derrick Rose and now Jabari Parker into the Illinois prep basketball conversation, those are names that will last forever. And the second list is headed by Bobby Simmons and would include Tim Bankston, David Knight, Deon Butler, Cody Butler, Kevin Turner, Bryant Notree, Calvin Brock, Tim Flowers, Stan Simpson and current Wolverines Kendrick Nunn and Steve Taylor.


QUESTION: What do you think of Glenbard West this year as they have an upperclass starting five? And they have the [Mache] twins.
-- Randall from Romeoville (by way of Glen Ellyn)

HOOPS REPORT: As I'm sure you will recall, Glenbard West struggled last year. But the Hilltoppers, who certainly played with some youth last season, stepped up as the No. 21 seed and upset No. 11 seed Oswego East and No. 6 seed Waubonsie Valley to reach the regional final, where it was walloped by Glenbard East in the title game.

But Glenbard West (11-17) is in good shape heading into this season with both size and experience. It starts with 6-6 veteran Michael Mache, who had a solid season a year ago and put up some impressive numbers. Plus, his twin brother, 6-6 Matthew Mache and 6-6 senior Pat Mazza are back. The key could be the development of junior guard Jeff Levesque, who contributed significantly as a sophomore. Oak Park will certainly be the favorite in the West Suburban Silver heading into next season, but that second spot will be up for grabs.


To read previous City/Suburban Hoops Report Mailbags ...

Hoops Report Mailbag I

Hoops Report Mailbag II

Illinois Spot-Lite Showcase next weekend
Illinois Spot Lite's annual Fall Showcase for Illinois high school basketball prospects will be this Sunday, Sept. 18, at Ackerman Sports & Fitness in Glen Ellyn. Games will begin at 11 a.m. and run throughout the day. There are still openings for players. For more information, contact Larry Butler at (708)-574-2457.

Illinois sets sights on Larry Austin

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By Joe Henricksen

While every fan of the University of Illinois sits and waits for every breaking tidbit of information regarding Simeon's Jabari Parker, there is other recruiting work to be done by Bruce Weber and his staff. And that includes locking up the state's top players in the loaded sophomore class.

Illinois has now offered talented sophomore Larry Austin of Springfield Lanphier. Austin, who is the No. 4 prospect in the Hoops Report's Class of 2014 player rankings, had a productive summer as a part of the USA Basketball Men's under-16 National Team that competed in the FIBA Americas Under-16 Championships in Mexico this past June.

Austin was offered by Illinois on Wednesday, which becomes his second offer to date. Bradley offered Austin last month.

"These first two offers are humbling," says Austin. "Both are great schools, but I'm going to keep my options open. I don't have any time table in place for a decision."

Last winter, Austin averaged 11 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game as a freshman at Lanphier while shooting 54 percent from the field. The physical lead guard has made considerable strides in becoming a true point guard with good vision and developing playmaking skills. Austin's strength is that he's so strong in getting to the basket, both in the halfcourt and in the open floor. He attacks on both ends of the floor and is unselfish, defends and brings valuable intangibles to the point guard position.

While the knock on Austin has been his perimeter shot, his pull-up, mid-range game has become an effective part of his offensive game. There is work to be done in adding range and efficiency to his shot, but he's young and his mechanics are very workable.

While Parker remains the top recruiting priority for Illinois -- and virtually every program involved with him at this point -- there is no question the Class of 2014 is huge for the Fighting Illini basketball program. Weber and his staff now have targeted a future point guard in Austin, while committed to convincing both Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander that they can stay home and play together.

Proviso East's Keith Carter opens it up

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By Joe Henricksen

The recruitment of Proviso East's standout guard, Keith Carter, is back open. The 6-0 senior, who was a part of the flurry of commitments Loyola and coach Porter Moser received in August, has opened up his recruitment.

"We rushed the process a little bit," said Keith Carter's father, Keith Carter, Sr. "I think I rushed the process. I wanted to get the pressure off of him, let him relax and just play basketball. But he has no problem with the process. Now we just want what is best for him."

And Loyola still may be the best spot for Carter, according to his dad, who says no visits are currenty set up for any other school.

"Keith still likes Loyola a lot," says Keith Carter, Sr. "He still has Loyola at the top. We want to take that official visit, be more comfortable with the decision."

Carter will be a four-year starter at Proviso East, where the Pirates are expected to be among the top five teams in the state of Illinois this coming season. Carter led Proviso East to a 22-win season a year ago.

Loyola received a commitment from junior guard Quenten Payne of St. Charles North, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2013. That followed up the Carter commitment, along with earlier commitments from seniors Darrell Combs, a guard from Thornwood, and 6-8 Nick Osborne of Muncie, Ind., and 6-7 Matt O'Leary of Terre Haute, Ind.

Bradley locks up Oak Park's Ka'Darryl Bell

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By Joe Henricksen

Bradley was able to tap into Chicago area recruiting as first-year coach Geno Ford secured a commitment from Oak Park's Ka'Darryl Bell, a highly-athletic point guard.

"Basically, they sat me down and showed me what they envisioned for me," says Bell. "They needed a point guard, wanted a point guard in my class and believe that I can come in and play right away. I liked the campus, the coaches, the school and the players."

The 6-0 Bell brings athleticism and very good upper body strength to the backcourt as he continues to improve his point guard skills and ability to run a team in the halfcourt. Bell, among the top 20 prospects in the Hoops Report's Class of 2012 player rankings, is strong and explosive to the basket. He's at his best in the open court and getting to the rim, while his perimeter jumper is a work in progress. Plus, he is a very capable defender with his combination of length, strength and quickness.

Bell averaged 15 points a game and was an all-conference selection in the West Suburban Silver as a junior.

The Bradley program has just one Chicago area player, former Julian star Walter Lemon, who had a solid freshman campaign last season. Bell will add more athleticism and another Chicago area tie as Bradley looks to enhance their recruitment of players in the city and suburbs.

Okafor, Alexander, White highlight 2014

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By Joe Henricksen

The Class of 2011, which just graduated and is headed off to college this fall, was the best collection of individual talent the state has produced since the great and tough-to-top Class of 1998 that featured elite stars at the head of the class, a boatload of high-major talent and Division I depth.

The lack of surefire talent in the Class of 2012 has been well documented. The Class of 2013, led by Jabari Parker of Simeon at the top, is awfully impressive. And the Class of 2014, though still early, has certainly made its presence felt and looks to be a special group of players going forward --at this point on par, the Hoops Report believes, with the Class of 2013. And with some of these players, you need to remember they are just beginning their sophomore year.

Right now there are three players in the sophomore class -- the Whitney Young duo of Jahlil Okafor and Paul White and Curie's Cliff Alexander -- who are all ranked among the top 25 players in the class nationally. ESPN.com has Okafor No. 3, Alexander No. 13 and White No. 17. Rivals.com has Okafor No. 4, Alexander No. 9 and White No. 21. That brings back memories of 1998 when Fenwick's Corey Maggette, Whitney Young's Quentin Richardson, Simeon's Bobby Simmons, Peoria Manual's Frank Williams and, yes, even Galesburg's Joey Range, were all ranked among the top 30 players nationally early in their high school careers.

While there are some bigger, more popular names in the class others have ranked higher, here is a look at how the Hoops Report sees the burgeoning Class of 2014 heading into the fall of their sophomore year in high school. The Hoops Report's Baker's Dozen in 2014. They're young and they're talented.

1. Jahlil Okafor, 6-9, C, Chicago (Whitney Young)
He's one of those no-brainer types at a young age and a coveted high-major player. Big men develop slowly, yet Okafor has a mature game and massive frame at 255 pounds. Throw in his noted solid footwork, soft hands and high character and you're talking about quite an advanced package of talent for a sophomore in high school.
2. Cliff Alexander, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Curie)
The kid is just oozing with ability and potential, though more raw at this point than Okafor but with a little more bounce and athleticism. Alexander has the look with the size, body and wingspan of a true high-major power forward. Right now he's a difference-maker on the glass, blocks shots and is effective within a few feet of the rim as a finisher offensively. With his size, agility and body, he's a national-type recruit.
3. Paul White, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Whitney Young)
Impressive combination of skill and size. Extremely versatile for a player who is already 6-8 with guard-like qualities. When his concentration level is high, his feel for the game shows. White can handle the ball, sees the floor and, while his jumper must still get more consistent, it has improved. The third Illinois prep player who should be a consensus top 25 national talent.
4. Larry Austin, 6-0, PG, Springfield (Lanphier)
Has solidified himself as a high-major point guard. He's physical, strong and will get after it defensively. Uses his body strength to his advantage. While his perimeter jumper is still a work in progress, he's improved as a floor leader and already brings some intangibles you look for in winning players.
5. Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, WF, Normal (U-High)
There wasn't a player in the sophomore class who has made bigger strides in the past year than Bates-Diop, who still has an enormous ceiling to reach. Long with a terrific wingspan, active and still growing into his body and gaining physical strength. He became more assertive this summer on the AAU circuit. Bates-Diop is a sleeper no more with Big Ten schools knocking on the door.
6. Tyquane Greer, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Orr)
The old "just starting to scratch the surface" applies perfectly to Greer's development. Right now he's raw and will need to learn how to play the game, but he's an extremely talented prospect. Long, athletic and can shoot the basketball with range. Overall basketball knowledge and awareness needs to improve, but he's young, still developing and had as much upside as anyone in this class outside of Okafor and Alexander.
7. Milik Yarbrough, 6-4, WF, Zion-Benton
Big-bodied wing who, if he pops a couple more inches (both his dad and brother are 6-7) has a chance to utilize his strengths even more. Just has a knack for putting the ball in the hole in a variety of ways and possesses a soft touch.
8. Tyler Ulis, 5-6, PG, Chicago Heights (Marian Catholic)
Is it too high for a 5-6 player? A Hoops Report favorite as there may not be a player in the class with a better feel for the game or the point guard position. He's as cool and composed as anyone with the ball in his hands and makes everyone around him better. But there is that height factor and slight frame that raises questions. But Ulis can flat-out play.
9. Paul Turner, 6-4, 2G/WF, Westchester (St. Joseph)
Like most all young players, Turner battles inconsistency. But he continues to look the part with his size, length and athleticism. The potential is there to be a big-time defender and a versatile threat offensively. While his talents still need to be refined, he continues to get more comfortable with his mid-range game and with the ball in his hands. As a prospect, projection still remains the key word with Turner.
10. Sean O'Mara, 6-9, C, Lisle (Benet Academy)
A true, big-bodied, old fashioned 5-man who will generate a ton of interest with his pure size and decent skill level. May not have the best feet or move great, but he's developing and .... he ... is ... huge.
11. Josh Cunningham, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Morgan Park)
A prospect who has received little to no pub. Look for this 6-6 athlete to burst on the scene pretty quickly after a solid, productive summer on the AAU circuit. Extremely mobile, well built and explosive off the floor. Cunningham has a chance to really move up the rankings over the next couple of years as his skills catch up with his athleticism.
12. Darius Austin, 6-5, 2G/WF, Cahokia
There is still a lot of polish that needs to be added to his game, but Austin will jump out at you and make you take notice when you start projecting him three or four years down the road. Another long, active perimeter player who is at his best as a slasher, with a great first step, who gets to the rim and scores. Terrific upside.
13. Darreon Reddick, 6-3, PG/2G, Belleville (East)
No player in the sophomore class grew more quickly on the Hoops Report this summer than the big-bodied guard from Belleville East. A strong, physical bull who plays hard and unselfish. He gets to the rim, finishes through contact and continues to improve his jumper. And he has shown that he has a pretty good natural feel.
14. Peyton Allen, 6-4, 2G/WF, Chatham-Glenwood
A prospect who may not wow the masses as he lacks ideal athleticism and burst. He brings size on the perimeter, a good basketball I.Q. and does a lot of different things well. A good shooter who will elevate his stock if he can become a great shooter. Scheduled visits with Michigan and Oklahoma State already on tap this fall.
15. Vic Law, 6-5, WF, Chicago (St. Rita)
May be starting to live up to the early promise he showed coming into high school. Really put together a solid summer, showcasing more versatility and an ability to play away from the basket. Possesses good length and athleticism. He's still trying to figure out who he is as a player and just how good he can be.

Hoops Report's Super Sleeper in 2014
• Nick Czarnowski, 6-7, PF, Naperville (Central)
Arguably the biggest sleeper in the class, especially considering his size and production as a freshman last season.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Joe Henricksen in September 2011.

Joe Henricksen: August 2011 is the previous archive.

Joe Henricksen: October 2011 is the next archive.

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